The program that allowed San Francisco businesses to operate in outdoor public spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic will continue indefinitely after supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to make the program permanent.
Shared Spaces, which began in June 2020, permitted restaurants and retail businesses to operate in places like sidewalks, city streets and open lots and became wildly popular.
More than 2,100 permits for curbside and sidewalk use have been issued by The City.
Mayor London Breed initially proposed making the program permanent in March.
“Shared Spaces brought back life and excitement to our neighborhoods during an incredibly challenging time,” Breed said in a statement on Tuesday. “By taking the necessary steps to make Shared Spaces permanent, we are providing another lifeline for local businesses to thrive and creating a clear path forward towards rebuilding our economy as San Francisco recovers from COVID-19.”
According to the mayor’s office, some 80 percent of businesses with a Shared Spaces permit have credited the program with helping them avoid going out of business.
During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, before approving the ordinance, supervisors engaged in a lengthy discussion regarding concerns about vandalism and other illegal activities occurring within Shared Spaces parklets after hours and whether businesses are liable for such activity.
“Just like we close down City Hall and parks at night, I think it would behoove us to put some parameters around it to ensure the success of the program,” Supervisor Myrna Melgar said.
“I definitely fear that requiring these (parklets) to stay open at night would render them unworkable for many neighborhoods,” Haney said. “I think many businesses and operators will want to keep them open (24-hours) for a variety of reasons and they should be able to, but those who want to, for important reasons including the differences across neighborhoods, may need to keep them closed during those nighttime hours to even make this feasible.”
Supervisor Ahsha Safai ultimately proposed an amendment to the ordinance, allowing businesses the option to close parklets and shared spaces between midnight and 7 a.m. Supervisors approved the amendment 6-5, with Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton and Connie Chan voting against it.
More information about the newly permanent Shared Spaces program can be found at www.sf.gov/shared-spaces.